Story a Day May #5: A Tower for your Tears
“Damn,” Andie said softly, tears coming to her eyes. Wiping them away, she leaned back against the alley wall she had ducked into, and tried to be quiet. Crying was normal and expected when you found out your boyfriend was cheating on you, but she had no intention of letting him see her like this. Still, the pain made her catch her breath and grimace, the air escaping in a hiss. She had to look down at her chest to make certain there was not a knife twisting in her flesh.
After what seemed a long while she looked out, peering around the corner, but they were still there. Standing on the sidewalk, locked in a passionate embrace for all the world to see, was her boyfriend and a girl she had never seen before. The alley dead ended or she would have escaped long ago. She wanted to confront him, but she shook her head at the thought. She did not want to be one of those girls, decrying her boyfriend for cheating in the middle of the street, while tears ran down her face and everyone stared.
“Maybe the girl feels better afterwards but I doubt it, and the guy probably laughs it off,” she muttered to herself. No, she would figure out a suitable punishment, Andie thought with a decisive nod. Another glance out at the street, steeling herself for the pain, but they were gone. With a sigh, she left the alley and headed home. The idea of going to school today of all days… No, wait, what was she doing?
“He’ll know,” she muttered and sighed. She would be good for next to nothing all day long, but he was not in her class at least.
The rest of the world passed by in a blur and at school she immediately went into a restroom to check her eyes. They were red but she had withheld her tears enough that the puffiness was minimal. Splashing her face with cold water, she redid her makeup, sternly telling her shaking hand to not mess up. After a while she calmed down but the bell had already rang.
Walking into first class late was not like her, but it was easy enough to apologize and whisper to the male teacher that her period had come. He did not want to pursue such a subject and nodded, waving her to her seat distractedly. “What’s up?” Winnie and Rolly wanted to know.
“Later,” she said distractedly, taking out her book and binder. On a fresh sheet of paper she began a list with the word ex-boyfriend at the top. Winnie widened her eyes at this and whispered something to Rolly who frowned.
By the time lunch came around she had a few ideas. The three discussed them, Winnie and Rolly eating while Andie stared out a window, and then he walked past. “That’s it,” she said. “Does Ryan have a girlfriend?” she demanded and her friends looked at eachother.
“Ryan?” another girl asked, having overheard. “You didn’t hear? He broke up with that girl he and what’shisface used to fight over all the time.”
“Is she blond with hair past her waist and a figure to die for?” Andie asked with a sinking feeling.
“Yeah, that sounds about right. She goes to East High I think, but I went to middle school with them. They’ve been fighting since then, if you can believe it,” the girl said with a laugh.
Andie looked at her friends who shook their heads simultaneously. “He’ll know,” Winnie said flatly and Rolly nodded.
“No he won’t. He doesn’t know that I know. We don’t have to act like a couple, just… friends, maybe, and he’ll probably assume the rest on his own. In fact, it’d be better to just let him catch us together and tell the truth that nothing is happening. He has such a grudge against you-know-who that… It would bug him.”
“You’re right,” Winnie said with a smile.
“Ok, fine, but if it backfires… make sure you come crying to us,” Rolly said with a sad smile and Winnie nodded. Andie smiled for the first time that day and nodded before running to find Ryan.
“Hey, Ryan. Stop for a moment.” The guy in question looked at her and raised an eyebrow quizzically. “Don’t worry, it’s… nothing complicated. Can we talk?” He shrugged and led the way to the bleachers.
“You’re his girlfriend aren’t you?” He asked point blank.
“Yeah, or well, I was. You can probably figure out who I saw him kissing this morning.”
“Oh, so now you want me to act like your boyfriend or something?” he sneered.
“Nope, that would be too obvious. I figure we talk, he sees it, and we innocently say we were simply discussing something. Him, I guess, since that’s all we have in common. I heard you and he have been fighting over the blond girl since middle school.”
“Aya? Yeah, we have. We both fell for her long ago… Are you sure you want to hear this?”
“Well we have to discuss something and you don’t seem unhappy with my plan.”
“No, you know him very well. All he has to do is see us talking and instant jealousy. Even if he has Aya it’ll bug him.”
“Yeah, he hasn’t even broken up with me yet. I wonder if he means to do it today.”
“Maybe, or maybe not,” Ryan said thoughtfully. “Aya can be very indecisive about some things, because she’s impulsive, so he may want to keep you just in case things don’t work out with her.”
“But you two were together for a long while, right?” Andie asked in confusion.
“Well, yeah, but even when we were together… Ok, you see, for the past couple years we were not officially together. Aya would bounce from me to another guy and then back. It was routine. At first I loved her too much to let her go, but… it gets tiring trying to forgive and it hurts like hell. We got to the point where mostly it was friendship with a few benefits if she was between boyfriends. Everyone considered us a stable couple since we were always together, but…” Ryan shrugged.
“So she may come back to you even though you’re broken up?” Andie asked.
“No, I closed that door firmly, locked it and then bricked over it. That’s why she turned to him.”
“So if he doesn’t break it off then I should,” Andie said thoughtfully. “Because there’s no way in hell I’m going through that.”
“Good girl,” Ryan said with a smile.
“Lunch is almost over. Can we talk after school, too? It doesn’t have to be about them… It can be about anything. You could talk to me in Greek and I would sit here nodding and smiling.”
“Well, I don’t know Greek, but sure we can talk again. We can leave together even, and I’ll treat you to something.” Ryan seemed amused by the entire situation.
“Actually… today I don’t really feel like…” Andie swallowed, seeing her boyfriend walk past, but he did not pay them the slightest attention. “I’ll do it,” she said. “I can cry later on, but I’ll be strong for now.”
“Good girl,” Ryan said with a smile. “I can see why he liked you. You’re cute and practically Aya’s opposite. What’s your name again?”
“Um, Andie,” she said, suddenly feeling shy.
“Andie?” he asked in surprise.
“It’s short for Andalucia,” she said with a shrug. “I hate Lucy, but Andie is fine.”
“It sounds like a boy’s name,” Ryan said with a frown.
“Well… If you’re that against it, you can call me–”
“What’s your full name?” Ryan asked with a stop motion.
“Um, Andalucia Nunez.”
“Middle name?” He demanded and Andie sighed.
“Andalucia Lupe Fernandez Nunez.”
“Oh,” Ryan said.
“Yeah, none of it really lends itself to a good nickname, does it? But you can call me Nina if you prefer.” Ryan laughed at that. “Half my family does, actually. Father doesn’t like Andie and I refuse to answer to Lupe.”
“Nina it is then,” Ryan said and they froze in surprise when the bell rang, then dashed for the building.
Andie skidded into class right before the door closed and took a deep breath. Taking her seat she smiled at her friends. “How did it go?” Rolly mouthed but Andie just shrugged and smiled.
“It’s already spreading that you chased after Ryan and were talking to him,” Winnie whispered.
“Really? Why?” Andie whispered back but the teacher coughed pointedly and they suddenly became very interested in their text books.
“Hey, what are you doing?” The voice was distinctive and the sound of it made Andie freeze. She had not expected to see him today but she should have known that speaking with Ryan would result in this.
“What do you mean?” Andie asked, putting away her books.
“Don’t give me that! The whole school knows you were talking to Ryan!” Her boyfriend spat the name, looking disgusted at having to say it.
“I just needed to speak with him. It was nothing,” Andie said with a shrug.
“I told you never to speak with him or we would be over,” her boyfriend said in a tone that froze her to the core.
“Oh,” Andie said, at a loss for words. “Well, that’s too bad then,” she said, regaining her senses and shrugging. Picking up her bag she passed by him, ignoring his spluttering, and walking to Ryan’s classroom.
“Hey, you ready to go?” she asked and Ryan looked up.
“Yeah… You know he’s behind you, right?”
“It’s fine. Just ignore him. Apparently since I spoke with you we have broken up. Isn’t that stupid?”
“Very,” Ryan said, looking like he was trying not to laugh. Picking up his bag he said goodbye to everyone and they left together. Heads turned watching this unlikely trio walk down the hall.
“So Nina, how long am I going to have to put up with this third wheel?” Ryan asked with a sigh.
Getting close, she glanced back at her boyfriend who was trailing and whispered, “Let’s pass by East High. That’s her school, right?”
“Oh, no, I have a better idea,” Ryan said with a wink and a nod. Andie grinned. When they neared the area her boyfriend began to look troubled, though she tried not to look at him too much, but when a girl came running out and tackled him she could not hold back a laugh.
“I knew she would do that,” Ryan said with a smile and Andie nodded. She was trying to hold onto her smile desperately and Ryan suddenly realized. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think,” he said in concern but she waved him off.
“Let’s just keep walking,” Andie said and they put distance behind them. “Ah, that’s better, although the urge to cry is still pretty strong.”
“Then cry,” Ryan said with a shrug. She looked at him in disbelief and he laughed. “Ok, ok, I know just the place.”
Andie stared at him in disbelief as he led her into a local park’s playground. Climbing up a ladder into a large fort structure that was mostly deserted in favor of slides, swings and teeter tots, he looked down at her. “Well, coming?” After a moment she followed. “No one usually goes over there,” he said, leading her to a tower, but the only way across was monkey bars.
“I can see why. No way am I going acros tho– Ah!” He lifted her from her waist until she was on top of the bars. She crawled across carefully and found when she stood on the other side she could just reach a ladder. Up on the very top of the tower she stood, surveying the area, and he joined her a moment later.
“You figured it out,” he said with a smile.
“There was a ladder on the side that would have let me climb on top by myself,” Andie said conversationally but he just shrugged.
“People usually don’t notice it,” he admitted, “and that was quicker than explaining.”
Andie let the silence speak for her annoyance, staring out at the kids as they shouted and chased eachother up and down through the large slide structure. “Why is this even here?” she wondered. Most of its features were in the slide fort. Ryan stayed quiet and she sighed.
“We used to come up here, the three of us,” he said after a moment. “We’ve known eachother since elementary. Back then she would kiss one of us one moment and then the other the next. We would give eachother a dirty look but then she would kiss a complete stranger because of something he did or said. I think that’s the way she kept us together. As long as it was one of us we felt it was better than some random person and… our dislike of that stranger would bond us together temporarily. Long enough that we stayed friends despite everything.”
“Wow, it all started that early,” Andie said in surprise.
“Yeah, I blame us for making her the way she is,” he said reflectively.
“Hey, she made her own decisions,” Andie said with a frown. “She could have chosen one of you, even if it broke up your group, but she decided to play this game. No one told her she had to.”
“Well, in a way we did,” Ryan said with a sigh and Andie looked at him. “‘Kiss me if you like me,’ I would say and she would kiss me. ‘What so you don’t like me?’ he would ask later. She was trapped in between us.”
“Well, her solution to that problem was interesting, but stupid,” Andie said with a sigh. “She should have just told you both that she didn’t like either of you.”
“Yeah, probably, but we had grown up together. Leaving us would have been unthinkable.”
“Wait, let me guess,” Andie said, holding up her hand. “Family problems.”
“You got it in one,” Ryan said, looking impressed.
“Yeah, well, she wouldn’t be so screwed up if there wasn’t another factor. Any mother would have seen the problem and counseled her daughter. But… either she didn’t have a mother, or she only had a mother that was never there…”
“Father that was never there,” Ryan said with a nod. “Then later on he started seeing a woman with a kid of her own. The two got married and Aya felt even more alone. He came home more often but… it wasn’t to be with his daughter.”
“Damn,” Andie said. “No wonder she’s so screwed up, but you guys aren’t helping her.”
“I know. I realized that some time ago and that’s one of the reasons I broke it off. I tried to be her friend but she never wanted that. Or not only that, anyway, and she only accepts relationships on her terms.”
“A very odd girl,” Andie said slowly, then took a breath and cleared her throat.
“I said you could cry,” Ryan said, watching her but she shrugged.
“No, I…” Her denial was cut short by the tears. Ryan moved close by and put a hand on her shoulder. That was all it took for her to surrender herself completely.
“Do you want him back?” Ryan asked quite a while later.
“No. It seems a bad precedent was set among you three. I don’t want to be Aya the second, not that I could be, or that we’d ever be more than friends at the most… But it’s better to cut him off now. He cheated and probably doesn’t even feel guilty.”
“No, because it’s Aya he won’t,” Ryan agreed.
“Well, then, good luck to them both,” Andie said. “How long do you think it will take him to tell me? Or will he bother? Then again he came very close to saying we’re through earlier.”
“What were the exact words?” Ryan asked and Andie managed to remember them for once. “No, you said the words not him. He doesn’t consider you two over. Not yet.”
Andie nodded. “Doesn’t matter what he thinks,” she said. “Well, I’m going home, thanks for the talk.” Stepping out on the other side she slid down the pole attached to the tower.
“Anytime,” Ryan said. “I think we could be more than friends, though.” Andie stopped and looked back.
“No. You were damaged by all that as well, you know. And I’m fresh out of a relationship. Besides, you’re still in love with her or you would have left her years ago.” Giving him a pained smile she left him with a surprised look on his face. He had known that, of course, but like all lovers thought his feelings well hidden. Whenever he spoke of her his eyes lit up.
“I doubt they’ll ever get over her,” she murmured to herself and gave a laugh. None of that mattered, really. She had a boyfriend to break up with and get over. Her crying had just begun but at least it had a definite end point. Those two… and the girl. For them things would never end. Not really.